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Human fascination with immortality stretches back to the time of Greek mythology with history littered by charlatans, oddballs and megalomaniacs either claiming or seeking the secret to eternal life.

However, the modern tech-savy generation has discovered, quite by chance, that an immortality of sorts is now freely available via the digital footprint they leave should they meet an untimely end. It's estimated that on Facebook alone, more than 30 million accounts belong to people who are deceased. 

As if the pain of coping with the death of a loved one isn't difficult enough, friends and family must now consider the implications of the deceased's online life to go with their material existence.

Your online footprint

Think for a moment about your own digital presence. You'll almost certainly use online banking and shopping facilities, perhaps an online wallet like PayPal, email accounts, a frequent flyer program, a social media presence via Facebook or Twitter, along with potentially thousands of personal files, receipts and photographs.

Most people already understand the importance of estate planning to help pass on worldly goods such as housing, savings and mementos to their beneficiaries. But how will your heirs even gain access to your computer and your passwords?

Like so many laws relating to the digital world, many are outdated or irrelevant, and several online services have already established their own policies. For instance, Twitter allows family or friends to download a copy of your public tweets and close your account. You need to nominate someone in advance to provide their name and contact details, their relationship to you, your Twitter username and a link to or copy of your obituary.

Digital executors

No laws currently exist in Australia to grant a Will's executor automatic access to someone's social media accounts. However, there are still several options available to help decide on how your online legacy is managed.

The first step is to create a Digital Will. In addition, you will need to select a trustworthy digital executor to handle arrangements for your digital assets and digital legacy once you are gone. Similarly, if you run your own business, it will have its own digital incarnation and its own digital legacy to maintain. Some Australian Will makers offer Digital Wills so people can ensure their online legacy lives on - or fades away - in accordance with their wishes. 

Online vaults for safe storage

An increasingly popular alternative is to store important documents and passwords in an online vault. The likes of SecureSafeLegacy Lockbox or Assets in Order pledge to provide secure online storage of passwords and documents. 

Password management accounts can be set up using software such as Norton Identity Safe while Google recently introduced a new program called Inactive Account Manager, which enables you to choose in advance exactly what you wish to have done with all your Google data - from Gmail accounts to YouTube videos. 

Considering how much of our communication takes place online these days, it's worth investing some time thinking about your digital footprint and what is required to manage it when you're gone. A good time to do this might be when next reviewing your Wills and Powers of Attorney. 

With a little thought and preparation, you can leave a lasting legacy to your loved ones, well beyond photos or videos, and avoid complications associated with your 'digital immortality'. 

If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs and wishes, give us a call on 03 9591 8000.

 

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I came to Connolly Wealth Management to explore the options that were available to me for future financial planning. I have now been a client for 7 years and would highly recommend their services. They have assisted with my financial structures and have helped prepare me for retirement.

Brad
Belmont Vic

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Christopher Connolly (280099) and Connolly Wealth Management Pty Ltd (333350) are Authorised Representatives of WealthSure Financial Services Pty Ltd AFSL 326450

The information contained within the website is of a general nature only. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the material, Connolly Wealth Management will not bear responsibility or liability for any action taken by any person, persons or organisation on the purported basis of information contained herein. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, no person, persons or organisation should invest monies or take action on reliance of the material contained herein but instead should satisfy themselves independently of the appropriateness of such action.

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